Room

July 5, 2019

There’s a room inside myself
I’ve never seen.
There’s

a bed there, and
on a nightstand, photographs
in frames. But

whose faces?

A violet
vase on a vanity: I’ve

held it in my hands. Tearful
apology. And
under my bed
in narrow boxes?
And if I open the desk
drawer, or
the dresser?

Well, just
the usual soft
folded things.
Silky
rectangles.
Knitted
squares.
A glove.
A stocking.

A loss, eternally.
And a window
(I’m sure of this)
that looks
out onto the green.
An apple tree.

And, beneath the tree, my
grandmother
in a housedress
in a lounge chair, sipping
a cool drink, not

even wondering
where she went or
where,
all these years,
she’s been.

Laura Kasischke

in east texas, i learned that my body
is less girl and more elephant graveyard.
here, i am the back pages of a history book;
i am a cathedral of almost-lovers.
welcome.
i am where you go to abandon your dying.
it will be like kissing, just not as violent.
come here to bury your dead.
all that aching must be heavy—i’ll carry it.
i have always been beast of burden:
pack animal.
buy a family plot behind my ribcage.
lay three generations of not good enough
down to rest.
you can love me like a slot machine, here.
shove yourself inside for the chance
of getting poetry out of it.
i can be lucky sevens, i can be anything.
i can be the first bar you got drunk in.
i can be a stomping ground for old lovers
who only loved the parts of me they could put their fingers in.
i’ll be the sycamore behind the high school soccer field
and they’ll carve their names in me with the stems
of broken wine glasses and call it love.
i can unlearn photosynthesis while they
drink fireball whiskey and tell stories of how
bad
i wanted to be touched.
yeah. i wanted to be touched.
guess my soda fountain heart was bad at being a wishing well;
all those copper pennies only ever tasted like blood.
and hope tastes like arcade fodder. it tastes
like the bottom of a mason jar.
does it even count making wishes in cities
too bright to have stars?
bodies are supposed to be temples, right?
well i sure did ransack mine good.
in my defence, marble is marble and stone is stone.
in my defence, nobody ever taught me that i could be holy.
in my defence,
wine coolers in texas summer can taste like praying
if you hold your mouth right.
so i’m the graveyard and not the dead.
forget this bone business and
for god’s sake, just let me live.
my body is a temple,
and my gods
drink vodka and gin.

Ashe Vernon

desire keeps you alive

March 7, 2019

Let suffering be removed, but not desire, because desire keeps you alive. That’s why they are afraid. They are consumed by the fear of desire. They want to suffer so they won’t think about desire. You’re maimed when you’re little, and fear is hammered into the back of your head. Because desire keeps you alive, they kill it off while you’re growing up, the desire for all things, in that way when you’re grown…

Mercè Rodoreda
Death in Spring
Trans. by Martha Tennent

Rodoreda’s posthumous novel, Death in Spring, utilizes a Catalan village setting to explore the nature of human relations and a search for identity. Published in 1989, Death in Spring further explores the dual senses of alienation and self-discovery through the eyes of a young village girl. In Death in Spring water, particularly a local stream, serves as a metaphor for change:

“I lowered myself gently into the water, hardly daring to breathe, always with the fear that, as I entered the water world, the air – finally rid of my nuisance – would begin to rage and be transformed into furious wind, like the winter wind that nearly carried away houses, trees, and people.”

Throughout the novel, water is never a metaphor for peace. Instead, it is a destructive force, one that batters bridges, bludgeons unfortunate souls who venture into its treacherous depths, all while reinforcing the cruel capriciousness of people, even as they grow estranged from each other. Rodoreda’s characters are often cruel and distant from one another, as in the case of their treatment of prisoners as caged animals to be tortured before they are killed. One character, referred to by the narrator simply as “Senyor,” is sentenced to die by having cement poured down his gullet until he suffocates. This concrete metaphor for the silencing of dissenters echoes “The Salamander”’s treatment of foreigners/outsiders as nefarious agents who must die by fire. Zealotry and irrational fear, Rodoreda reminds us, often leads to human loss and suffering, while also dehumanizing those who perpetuate such inhumane treatment upon other human beings.

In Rodoreda’s fictions, the weird is not just something inexplicable that occurs within a narrative, but also a commentary on human relations. We see in Death in Spring a girl who munches on bees, followed shortly by a young boy who, after venturing into the treacherous waters underneath the village bridge, is mutilated by the waters as the villagers watch on, some with apparent glee.

Zoran Rosko
Mercè Rodoreda

Let crazy terror take my head, nobody could fend off an attack more powerful than the idea of power.

It’s not what one thinks it is. It’s not what one doesn’t think it isn’t. It’s not what one thinks it isn’t. What is most unlikely is what’s most probable. The unthinkable trembles my heart, I call it “fear! fear!”

The illness comes into being again, I change it, and all this without the slightest calculation. One day one the next the other. I’m convinced I make myself sick one illness after another without being able to do a thing about it. Thinking I know this is an illusion of the ill. It’s no help at all my knowing it. All the same, no complacency. Each illness makes me doubly ill 1) with the illness 2) with being sick of being ill. Every time I make myself sick, I always make myself sick again but I see perfectly that I do this on the same model, it’s always the end of being, generally it’s at the bottom of the garden this happens, the way the death of my father took place, starting in the garden’s northeast corner which suddenly fills up with this terrifying substance, invisible but substantial, tactile, perceptible perceived as brushing as growling, this colossal quantity of void that one hears sighing if one could hear it (but one doesn’t want to, one is petrified), not breathing but sighing, as if the garden our daily body were suddenly occupied by a body too big diffuse internal and thus hollowing out of our usual compact and limited body bottomless pits of visceral caverns and this content, this monster is a nightmare in broad daylight without a hope of waking, the vanguard of Regret that already fills up all the available space, that spreads out into our eyes our throat our lungs great doses of bitterness and sobs to come. I am perfectly aware that the misfortune is my fault, I call upon no one, but taking advantage of my deficit of vigilance during sleep the illness spreads into every inch of me like a building going up without any estimation of its internal or external resistance and I am its even before I open my eyes. The minute I’m up, I lack everything, daylight, courage, sturdy legs, everything necessary to life: movement, confidence, habit, the solidity of things, the loyalty of vital beings! So far as I can see everything betrays me. No one I can count on. Death is the first to come along. I see it everywhere, far more overwhelming than my mental debility and it picks and chooses, according to probability or improbability.

Nobody can fend off a hurricane, it grinds up and kills at random, that I am at the origin of it doesn’t in the least lessen its impact.

Hélène Cixous
Hyperdream,
Translation Beverley Bie Brahic

Dancing

February 14, 2019

It was my father taught my mother
how to dance.
I never knew that.
I thought it was the other way.
Ballroom was their style,
a graceful twirling,
curved arms and fancy footwork,
a green-eyed radio.

There is always more than you know.
There are always boxes
put away in the cellar,
worn shoes and cherished pictures,
notes you find later,
sheet music you can’t play.

A woman came on Wednesdays
with tapes of waltzes.
She tried to make him shuffle
around the floor with her.
She said it would be good for him.
He didn’t want to.

Margaret Atwood

fantasies of bouncing back

February 2, 2019

We console ourselves with fantasies of bouncing back but we must hold on to what has really happened and not cover it with imagining how we are to unhappen it. Void makes loss a reality.

Iris Murdoch
Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals

The Dead

December 23, 2018

At night the dead come down to the river to drink.
They unburden themselves of their fears,
their worries for us. They take out the old photographs.
They pat the lines in our hands and tell our futures,
which are cracked and yellow.
Some dead find their way to our houses.
They go up to the attics.
They read the letters they sent us, insatiable
for signs of their love.
They tell each other stories.
They make so much noise
they wake us
as they did when we were children and they stayed up
drinking all night in the kitchen.

Susan Mitchell

for Bryn Kelly, a trans woman writer and artist who died in 2016.

Months follow her funeral and still not all her mourners blow away.
Not enough wind in the world. Cruelty lives on too, inheres in you,
travels through the back of love like a spine. Locks of red that are gone.
Locks of blonde. You will buy grown up clothes, you will fail more people.
The sky tricks you with warmth, then, like her, leaves you. No good
woman no more, and why. We lined up, we looked handsome, we did no good.
The Thane of Fife had a wife, where is she now? Outside the karaoke room
I heard her broad voice through the glass: Purple rain, pur—rple rain,
but stayed outside talking to Joss and pressing my stupid fat face
on the window. Oh honey, look where the wind never seems to blow you
no matter what game you talk.

Stephen Ira

The Return

November 30, 2018

The souls of all my dears have flown to the stars.
Thank God there’s no one left for me to lose –
so I am free to cry. This air is made
for the echoing of songs.
A silver willow by the shore
trails to the bright September waters.
My shadow, risen from the past,
glides silently towards me.
Though the branches here are hung with many lyres,
a place has been reserved for mine, it seems.
And now this shower, struck by sunlight,
brings me good news, my cup of consolation.

Anna Akhmatova
translated by Stanley Kunitz with Max Hayward

Vulnerable

June 19, 2018

My virginity was stolen from me at the age of fifteen
No longer innocent, just impure and unclean
A few years later, thinking I was in love
I fell easily into him, believing he was the one
Giving him all of me, all the little pieces
Opening up and sharing all my secrets
But I was abandoned once again
Leaving me more broken in the end
Countless nights trying to drink the pain away
What’s wrong with me? No one seems to stay
No future anymore, no goals or happy life plans
Just being used and so many one night stands
Vulnerable to anyone who shows me any interest
I please them and then they make themselves so distant
Every night I know I’m being used and then forgotten
But I keep failing myself, falling for lies then feeling rotten
I’m trapped in my past and the ship continues to sail
I want to land on the ground and break free, but all my efforts fail
But still I refuse to give up shining hope
I’m choosing to leave my past and escape this sorrowful slope
This story is one I used to fear to share
But my past no longer defines me for one day it will end a fairytale

Morgyn Harris